By Elhanan Winchester
Friend. I am happy to have another opportunity of discoursing with you, concerning that point in which you differ from your brethren, the final Restoration of all things. I have thought much of the subject since I saw you; and though I must acknowledge, that you have answered as far as I can see, some of the greatest objections that I have found in the Scriptures; yet a considerable number remain to be answered, before I can venture to receive as truth, what I have hitherto looked upon as a dangerous heresy; and as I have many questions to propose, I wish to make the best use of my time.
Minister. Propose your objections, as freely as you please; and I will endeavor to answer them as briefly, and at the same time as plainly as possible.
Friend. CHRIST threatens the Jews with an eternal exclusion from his presence. "Ye shall seek me. and shall not find me; and where I am, thither ye cannot come," St. John vii. 34. Then said JESUS again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins. Whither I go ye cannot come. Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins; for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins," St. John, viii. 21,23, 24.
Minister. Do you recollect that our LORD uses words nearly similar to some of these, to his own disciples?
Friend. No, indeed; I do not remember any such like expressions used to them. Can you shew them to me?
Minister. If I do, will you acknowledge the the force of the objection to be removed?
Friend. Certainly, I must.
Minister. Then read St. John, xiii. 33. "Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me, and as I said unto the Jews, whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say unto you."
Friend. I am surprised that I should never have observed this before--Let me read the passage-- Oh! but stop--it is explained in the 36th verse. "Simon Peter said unto him, LORD, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards."--But nothing of the kind is intimated respecting the Jews.
Minister. Not in that text, I confess; but in
many others it is more than intimated, that they shall come to know and love him, yea and
to behold him as their friend. I think it is intimated in those words which our Saviour
used, in the close of his threatenings to Jerusalem. Behold your house is left unto you
desolate; and verily I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, until the time come
when ye shall say, blessed is he that eometh in the name of the Lord," St. Matth. xxiii.
38, 39. St. Luke, xiiL 35. It is more than intimated in these words-- "And so
all Israel shall be saved. For
GOD hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon
all." Rom. xi. 26, 32. "In JEHOVAH shall allthe seed of Israel be justified & shall glory," Isai. xlv. 25. "I
will call them my people, who were not my people; & her beloved, that was not
beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, yo are
not my people, there shall they be called the children of the living God." Rom. ix. 25,
26. "Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel; I have gathered them unto their own land, and have
left none of them." Ezek. xxxix. 25, 28. "And I will multiply men upon you, (the
mountains of Israel) all the house of Israel,
even all of it." xxxvi. 10. "Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you
to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know
that I am JEHOVAH, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and
brought you up out of your graves and shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and
I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye know that I, JEHOVAH,
have spoken it, and performed it, saith JEHOVAH." xxxvii. 12,
Friend. But this returning from captivity, can only respect such as are alive at that period, when the Lord shall set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people from Assyria, &c.
Minister. That is more than any one can prove; as the expression is sometimes used evidently for the Restoration of such whose bodies are destroyed beyond dispute; as in the case of Sodom and her daughters, who were taken away, by fire and brimstone from Heaven, whose captivity GOD promises to return, together with the captivity of Samaria, and her daughters, at the same time that he will bring again the captivity of Jerusalem, and her daughters in the midst of them. See Ezek. xvi 44, 63; especially v. 53, 55,61.
Friend. But Mr. POOLE'S Continuators, as well as many other eminent divines, tell us, that these which you take to be promises, are only dreadful threatenings; and their meaning is this: -- I never will bring again the captivity of Samaria, and her daughters; nor the captivity of Sodom, & her daughters; neither will I ever bring again the captivity of thy captives, in the midst of them; when Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former estate, (which is impossible) and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate (which shall never be) then ihau and thy daughters shall return to your former estate; but that time shall never come.
Minister. I know, such is their interpretation, which proves nothing more than the weakness of their cause; for in all this, they expressly contradict GOD, who, from the 60th verse to the end of the chapter, promises blessings to Jerusalem in the most absolute manner, that he will remember the covenant made with her in the days of her youth, and will establish unto her an everlasting covenant: that she shall receive her sisters, Samaria and Sodom (called her elder and her younger sister;) and he promises to give them to her for daughters; not by the first covenant, indeed, but by the new and everlasting covenant, which ho will make in those days; then shall the covenant be firmly established with her; she shall know JEHOVAH; shall remember, and be confounded; and never shall open her mouth in pride any more, because of her former sin and shame, when God shall be pacified toward her, for all that she hath done.
How many promises has GOD made to Jerusalem, in the prophecies, of not only bringing her captivity, and returning her to her former estate; but even causing greater blessings than ever to come to her, and of doing better to her than in her beginning, making her an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations, &c.
It is therefore very surprising, that men professing to believe the Bible, should dare
be so bold as to deny these promises, and declare, that God will never bring Jerusalem to
her former estate! They might, indeed, safely say, that the promises have not yet been
fulfilled; but it is too bold to assert, that therefore they will never be accomplished.
Were there no other text to prove the Restoration of the Jews who died in their sins, and
indeed of the whole fallen race of Adam, should I judge this sufficient;--"All that the Father
giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast
out. For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent
me. And this is the Father's will, which hath
sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it
up again at the last day." St. John, vi. 37, 38, 39--Here we find that Christ our Lord,
declares not only that all that the Father
giveth him shall come to him; but also,
that they shall come in such a manner as in no wise to be cast out; and that such is the
Father's will, that nothing of all which he hath
given to the Son should be lost or missing, at
that great day when he shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, who did put all things
under him; and as this is the will of that God who
worketh all things after the counsel of his own will and as Christ has undertaken
the accomplishment of this will of the Father, it concludes absolutely and forcibly
against the doctrine of endless misery and
Friend. It certainly does, with respect to all those whom the Father giveth, or hath given to the Son; but to none else.
Minister. That is all that I contend for; I ground the Universal Restoration of all things, upon these two premises, which I call the major and the minor. 1. That all things are given to the Son, without exception. 2. That all that are given him, shall come to him, in such a manner as not to be cast out; and that none shall be missing, lost, or wholly destroyed, but shall be forthcoming, in that great day when Christ shall give up the kingdom to the Father.
Friend. But can you prove your major? I am sensible that the minor has been the great foundation upon which particular redemption, &c. has been supported; but if the major can be proved, it will set the strongest weapons of those who hold partial decrees, &c. directly against them, and will give another turn to the argument.
Minister. I can prove the major by the same positive expressions as the minor, and by more passages of Scripture; and you shall judge for yourself, whether I quote them fairly, and whether they can be invalidated by any arguments which will not, at the same time, invalidate the minor. I will set down the several texts at large, as they are of great importance.
St. Matth. xi. 27. "All things are delivered unto me of my Father; and no man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and to whomsoever the Son will reveal him."--The very same words are mentioned by St. Luke. See chap. x. 22.
But the most striking passages of this kind are found in the gospel of St. John, iii. 35, and xiii. 3. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands. Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God, &c."
God hath moreover said to his Son, "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." Psal. ii. 8.
Thus, all things are given to Christ without exception. The major and minor being both proved from Scripture, we may venture to draw this conclusion.
If all things are given into the hands of Christ, by the Father; and all that the Father giveth, or hath given, shall come to Christ, in such a manner as not to be cast out; then shall all men be restored.
Here the whole Christian world may unite, without either party being obliged to give up their favorite tenets; and while some strongly contend, and prove from Scripture, that all things are delivered into the hands of Jesus; let the others go on to prove, that all that the Father giveth, shall come in such a manner as not to be cast out; thus shall the truth be promoted mutually and equally, by those who seem to contradict each other; but neither shall, in that case, contradict what our Lord hath said.
But as all things, or all men, without exception, are given to Jesus, that he might restore, or bring them back to God, in
his own way and time; so is he invested with all power, that he might be able to
accomplish so great a work. Jesus spake, saying, "All power is given unto me, in heaven
and in earth," St. Matth. xxviii. 18. "For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he
given to the Son to have life in himself, and hath given him authority to execute
judgement also, because he is the Son of man," St. John, v. 26, 27. Jesus our Lord, has
power to quicken souls who are dead in trespasses and sins. See Ephes. ii. 1. He himself
saith; "verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead
shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live." St. John, v. 25.
He hath power to raise all the dead that are in the graves; for he saith "Marvel not at
this; for the hour is coining, in which all that are in their graves shall hear his
voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life; and
they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation, verse 29. But he has not only
power to raise the dead and quicken whom he will; to give rewards to them that love him,
and to pass sentence of judgement and condemnation upon his foes, and they that have done
evil; but has also power to subdue all things unto himself, to reconcile all things, and
to rehead all things in himself. And whatever methods he may use towards mankind, and
whatever miseries he may suffer them to feel for their sins, and how long soever the
dreadful age of judgement and fiery indignation may last, Christ has given us to
understand, in his prayer to the Father, that the power which he hath, was given with a
design far superior to this, (though judgement is included) he saith (in that address
which for its grandeur, beauty, simplicity, and majesty, never was equalled) "As thou
hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many (pan,
ALL) as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might
know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent," St. John, xvii. 2,
3. Here we see, that this power over all flesh was given him for this grand purpose, that
ultimately he might give eternal life; not only endless existence, but the knowledge of
God and his Christ, to all that the Father hath given him; which are all without
exception.--This is the will of God, that all which he hath given the Son, he should lose
nothing; but should give eternal life, even the knowledge of God, which he alone can
give, to all, without reserve, whom the Father hath given him; this is the will which
Christ came to do, and this he hath power to perform. Now, if he came purposely to do the
will of God; and if it is the will of God, that of all that the Father hath given to the
Son, he should lose nothing; but should bring all to himself, in such a manner as that
they should not be cast out, and give them all eternal life; and if all, without reserve
are given to him, and universal power and dominion are his, for this very purpose; if all
these premises are true--as who can deny?--then nothing can be more evident than this
conclusion, viz. that all shall be at last
"It is written in the prophets, (saith Jesus) and they shall all be taught of God. Every man therefore, that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me," St. John vi. 45. If all shall be taught of God; and all that are taught shall come to Christ; and none that come to him shall be cast out or rejected; if all these premises are true (and, I think, they are fully proved) how very naturally the conclusion follows, viz. that all shall be finally brought home to God, before Christ shall resign the kingdom to the Father.
Our blessed Lord is invested with power sufficient to perform this work. It is the will of God that it should be done; Christ came into the world on purpose to begin, and lay a foundation for the same; he hath laid a sufficient foundation, by tasting death for all; one died for all; he gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time; and he seemed confident that he should be able to accomplish this will of the Father, when he said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me," St. John, xii. 32.--He was lifted up from the earth, and therefore the IF is now no more; he will certainly, draw all unto himself, and give eternal life, or the knowledge of God to all. He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. And who can conceive how much it will take to satisfy the capacious soul of the Son of God, and especially after having borne such deadly pains for all?
These passages, my friend, establish my mind in the belief of the final universal Restitution, beyond all hesitation; nevertheless, I would not wish to force your assent, were it in my power, but only to lay before you that evidence which was wrought upon me, and has brought me over, notwithstanding my education, prejudices, former sentiments, custom, the multitude, my interest, my honor, and connexions, were all against it.
Friend. I suppose you know the expositions that are given by the generality of expositors upon all these texts; and it is a fact that thousands and millions of great and good men have read them, many have preached from them, and yet never saw any thing like the universal Restoration contained in them; but if the doctrine be true, and be at all intended to be set forth in the Scriptures, I must suppose that the passages you have mentioned, may allude to it; but I have many objections yet to propose, which must be fairly answered before I can receive it.
Minister. I would choose you should propose every objection that you can, especially those that may be brought from the sacred page; not only for your own satisfaction, but lest any should be led to suppose that objections of the greatest force are purposely kept back, because no solid answers could be found; whereas I am desirous of hearing whatever can be fairly urged from the Scriptures against this view, and make no doubt of being able to shew, that all maybe fully answered.
Friend. What do you think of those passages, where GOD is represented as swearing in his wrath that unbelievers shall uot enter into his rest, which are found in Psal. xcv. 11. Heb. iii. 11, 18, 19. Chap. iv. 3, 6, compared with Numb. xiv. Do they not seem to cut off all hopes of the restoration of those who die in their sins?
Minister. By the rest that was promised to the children of Israel, which they fortified by their unbelief, we must understand the land of Canaan,and not the final state of happiness. For who can suppose, that out of more than six hundred thousand men, besides women, only two will be saved? and that even Moses and Aaron, those saints of the Lord, will be lost among the rest? For they as well as others, entered not in; because they believed not God to sanctify him before the congregation: (see Numb. xx. 12.) Only Caleb and Joshua entered into that rest, for they followed the Lord fully; and they are typical of those who shall follow the Lamb in all ages, so as to obtain a part in the first resurrection, over whom the second death shall have no power; they who are called, and faithful, and are overcomers, shall reign with Christ on earth during the Millenium, which is the rest that was pointed out by the land of Canaan.
Friend. Is it indeed? We have commonly understood that rest which the children of Israel had in the promised land, as typical of Heaven and eternal felicity.
Minister. This cannot be, since it is evident that mighty wars were waged, and dreadful battles fought, thirty-one kings and kingdoms were conquered and subdued by Joshua and the Israelites, after they passed over Jordan; it was not a perfect rest, but only a type of that keeping of the Sabbath which remains for the people of GOD, into which we are exhorted to enter; which is the time when our Lord, after having conquered the nations of the earth, shall reign for a thousand years, before the second resurrection; but as many of the Israelites may be saved in the day of the Lord, whose carcases fell in the wilderness; so, likewise, shall the names of many be found in the book of life, at the general judgement, when the dead, small and great, shall stand before GOD, who were not worthy to have a part in the first resurrection. These passages, therefore, conclude strongly against those, having a part in the first resurrection; but nothing against the final Restoration, which is a state far beyond, and belongs to another dispensation.
Friend. This is quite a different comment from what I ever heard before; but allowing this objection to be answered, I have another in my mind, that appears very difficult, and I should be glad to know what you can say upon it; it is drawn from Isaiah, xxvii. 11-- "For it is a people of no understanding; therefore, he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favor." How can they ever be restored, if GOD will not have mercy upon them, nor shew any favor?
Minister. If we did not understand these words with some limitation, it would be as difficult to reconcile them with other passages of Scripture, as with the doctrine of the Restoration; but if we only limit the time, all is easy, "He shall have judgement without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy;" nevertheless it is added, "but mercy rejoiceth against judgement," James, ii. 13. The way I answer all these threatenings, and shew them to be consistent with that boundless mercy of GOD, that is over all his works, is, to shew that both wrath and mercy have their season; that anger endureth but a moment, but that mercy endureth forever; which glorious declaration is expressed more than forty times in the Scriptures; and that God frequently threatens the greatest judgements, and promises the greatest mercies, to the same people and persons. "Thus saith JEHOVAH, thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous. There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up; thou hast no healing medicines. All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.-- Why criest thou for thine affliction? Thy sorrow is incurable, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee." Now, who would not think, from reading these words, that these people were in a most hopeless state, beyond the reach of mercy; and that it was in vain even for them to seek it? And yet the very next words speak a language directly contrary. --" Therefore all they that devour thee, shall be devoured, &c. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith JEHOVAH; because they called thee an outcast, saying, this is Zion, whom no man seeketh after." See Jer. xxx. 12, 17. I could justify this observation by hundreds of passages wherein God threatens his people with judgements the most severe, and declares--that his eyes shall not pity, nor his arm save; that he will visit their transgressions upon them, will utterly cast them off", and will not have compassion on them at all; and then such promises of mercy break out as are sufficient to astonish every one with their greatness. But time would fail to quote them at large. GOD, by Hosea, says, "I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. For ye are not my people, and I will not be your God." And then immediately says, speaking of a time to come, "And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, "Ye are the sons of the living GOD." See Hosea, i. 6,9, 10.
The whole prophecy, indeed, seems of a piece with this specimen. In the second chapter it is said, "Plead with your mother, plead; for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband; and I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms." Then he goes on to pronounce many dreadful threatenings; but the chapter closes with the most amazing promises of mercies to the same people, under the similitude of a wife that had been rejected, and after a long time received again. "And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in unrighteousness, and in judgement, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord. And I will sow her unto me in the earth, and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them who were not my people, Thou are my people; and they shall say, Thou art my GOD;" See Hos. ii. 2, 4, 19, 20, 23.-- Thus the objection admits of a fair and rational answer; and I have been the larger upon it, because I judged it of great importance to clear it up thoroughly; but more passages upon this subject are needless, or I could easily produce great numbers, that speak the same purpose.
Friend. You have seemed to come over this objection rather better than I could have expected, but I must beg leave to ask you, what you do with that passage; Psal. xlix. 19. "He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light?"
Minister. I render the words gnad natsah, "until subdued and overcome, they shall not see the light, or until the age, or a certain period, they shall not see the light." The same words are used in Job, xxxiv. 36, where they are rendered "unto the end." "My desire is, that Job may be tried never; or, may never be tried." This would be inconsistent with the nature of things, as well as a contradiction in the words themselves; for first to say, "My desire is, that Job may be tried," and then to add words that mean never, is quite ridiculous even to suppose; but render the words, unto a time or period," or as they will bear, "until he be subdued or overcome," and the meaning is both plain and benevolent; but to wish him tried forever, world without end, would be a most malevolent wish-- and to wish him tried never, would be nonsense.
Friend. This translation is very different from that which we commonly read, in which the text appears a very formidable objection indeed; for if they shall never see the light, they cannot be restored.
Minister. The word never is sometimes used in our translation, in such a manner as to oblige us to understand it in a limited sense, as has been proved before; Lev. vi. 13. "The fire shall ever be burning upon the alter, it shall never go out;" and in several other places.
Friend. I must allow that the words you mention seem very strong and absolute, but the very reason of things obliges us to limit their meaning to a period or age; but where no such necessity appears we must understand such words in the most absolute and unlimited sense.
Minister. I think there is as abundant reason from Scripture to limit the time of punishment as any thing whatever; as I trust will appear in the course of our conversation, for which purpose I shall be glad to hear all that you are able to urge against the doctrine of the Restoration.
Friend. The next objection I shall bring is from Job. xxxvi. 18. "Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke; then a great ransom cannot deliver thee." By which we understand that after death there is no deliverance, no, not even by that great ransom, the blood of Christ.
Minister. This would be one of the strongest objections that you have advanced yet, if the words a great ransom, had any allusion to the blood of the dear Redeemer, and if it could be fairly demonstrated, that it can have no power over the dead; but I apprehend, when you read and consider the text, context, and similar passages, you will see that no such thing is intended.
Job had frequently wished for death in his trouble and anguish, (as many persons foolishly and wickedly do, that have never felt the tenth part of his afflictions) for which Elihu justly reproves him, in these words; "Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke; then a great ransom cannot deliver thee from death and the grave; from being cut off by the hand of heaven, justly provoked by the rashness: "Will he esteem thy riches?" Will he account thy great riches a ransom for thy life?--- "No, not gold, nor all the forces of strength." Wouldest thou give ever so much of the precious ore to ransom thy life, it would be unavailable; or, shouldest thou trust in thy strength of body or mind? shouldest thou plead the readiness of thy wit, the strength and greatness of thy judgement, memory, and other faculties; thy benevolence of disposition; thy usefulness in life; thy numerous connexions; the great honors that await thee; wert thou a monarch, and couldest thou command armies and valiant hosts, strong and mighty; all these things would be totally disregarded by God, if he, provoked by thy rashness, should give thee thy wish, and issue the death warrant against thy life 5. therefore, considering these things, "Desire not the night (of death, and especially sudden death) when people are cut off in their place; and there is no remedy, no ransom, no discharge in that war; from which neither power, wisdom, might, riches, honors, wickedness, nor even virtue can deliver. "Take heed, regard not iniquity;" do not sin in any wise, and especially do not rashly wish for death; which is very presumptuous and heaven daring; "for this thou hast chosen, rather than affliction." See Job, xxxvi. 18, 19, 20, 21. This is evidently the plain meaning of the text, and is confirmed by Psalm xlix. 6, 7, 8, 9. --" They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever.) That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption."--But though the power of wealth, wisdom and strength, are not sufficient to buy a short reprieve from death; yet the power of God is able to ransom therefrom, and to redeem from the grave, or hell, as I have noticed before; and which is expressed in the last mentioned Psalm, in the following terms; "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me," verse 15. And by the same parity of reasoning, that the power of the Highest is able also to redeem or ransom the bodies of men from the grave, after they have perished there; he is able also to redeem souls from sin and misery, if it be his pleasure; and by the blood of the Messiah's covenant, to send forth his prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water, not even a drop to cool the tongues of those who are tormented there. I have therefore no doubt, but, the blood of Christ is able to redeem to the uttermost, and is sufficient to destroy the power of sin, death and hell. Nothing in the text on which your objection is founded, can depreciate the merit of that cleansing, all- powerful blood, by proving that it cannot be effectual to lost souls.
Friend. But have you forgot that the Scripture says, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. And if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north; in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be?" Eccl. ix. 10. xi. 3.
Minister. No; I have not forgot that such passages are found in the Bible; and 1 believe they were written with a design to make us diligent, and wisely to improve our time and talents; and that we should be liberal in giving alms, which seems especially to be the meaning of the last, if we may judge by the connexion in which it is found, and without which I am not able to say what it intends. But, in this case, they do not appear to me to be any thing to the purpose-, one way or the other; and yet no Scriptures are more frequently brought than these against the doctrine of the Restoration of all things; but commonly accompanied with some additions; such as-- "There is no repentance in the grave; nor pardon offered to the dead." "And as death leaves us, so judgement finds us."-- Words that l have never found in the Bible; but were they repeated ever so often, could not affect this argument; since the general Restoration cannot happen till long after the last judgement, and will not be wholly completed till the time of the creation of the new heavens and earth, wherein righteousness alone shall dwell.
We all know, that the grave is a place of inactivity, where there is no work, device, knowledge, nor wisdom; and it is a state to which we shall soon be brought; and, therefore, we ought to be diligent and industrious now: but those who believe in the immortality- of the soul, will not undertake to prove from these words, that it has no knowledge, or wisdom, after it leaves the body; since many of them say, that the soul knows much more in one hour after that event takes place, than in the whole period of its existence before. And as for those who believe that man dies wholly, and sleeps in the grave until the resurrection, they can never bring this text with any consistency against the final Restoration of all men; because, let what will be the state of things in the grave, nothing can prevent our Saviour from raising all at last, and changing them finally for the better, if such be his pleasure. I might, therefore, just as well attempt, from the vii and xiv chapters of Job, to prove, that there shall be no resurrection of the dead from their graves, notwithstanding the numerous promises of that grand event; as any person to prove, from these and similar passages, that all men shall not be finally restored; since what is said in those chapters seems ten times more against the former, than any thing that can be urged from these is against the latter. The doctrine of the general resurrection of the just and unjust; and a state of rewards for the former, and punishments for the latter, according to their works; and also the subjection, final reconciliation, and reunion of all things in Christ, are all expressly revealed, and are - made the subject of prophecies, threatenings and promises; and are all truths, that cannot be overthrown by any reasonings, as they are plainly declared by God himself.
The Scripture, in abundance of places, highly recommends liberality; and, in the most positive manner, assures the bounteous, that they shall be blest. I need not recite passages to prove, what is so universally known and confessed. Solomon, therefore, having given many excellent precepts to direct us in other matters, comes to exhort us to be bountiful and liberal, in distributing to the necessities of others what God has blessed us withal; saying, "cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if the tree fall towards the south, or toward the north; in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall he." Thereby intimating to us, that as certainly as these plain common observations are true, (than which nothing can be more so) shall they who bestow liberally upon the poor and needy, be rewarded; since God has promised and he will perform? See, upon this subject, Deut. xv. 10, II.--Psal. xli. 1,2,3. cxii.--Prov. xi. 24, 25, 26. xiv. 31. xix. 17. xxii. 9.--St. Matth. vi. 3, 4. x. 42 --St. Luke vi. 38. xii. 33. xiv. 12, 13, 14.--2 Cor. viii. 9.--1 Tim. vi. 17, 18, 19--and many other places.
Solomon then goes on upon the same subject, and intimates to us, by two striking metaphors, that if we wait till no difficulties appear in our way to hinder us from performing our duty, we shall never reap the blessing; and after giving us to understand that GOD has many secret ways of working, far above our comprehension, and can therefore bless and reward us in many ways out of our own sight, or the view of others, and yet no less certainly than children are conceived, nourished, and receive life in the womb, we know not how; he comes to give us a warm and pressing exhortation, to be constant in doing good to all, according to our power; and to be so far from concluding that to be lost that we thus bestow, that we ought to consider alms as seed sown in a fruitful soil, and should, with patience, wait for the glorious harvest, when, through the divine blessing, we may expect to reap an hundred fold.
All this is plain and easy: but how any text in this beautiful chain, should ever have been thought to have any allusion to the state of souls departed, or brought as a proof that no alteration can take place after death, I cannot conceive. But, allowing it to have any relation at all to a future state, it cannot then in the least disapprove, that very material changes may happen to souls in the spiritual world; since a tree cut down by its owner, lies not long in the same position in which it falls, but is applied to various uses, according to its fitness and his pleasure.-- But as this is nothing to the purpose, I think I have taken too much pains here already; and I should have said little or nothing upon this part of the objection, were it not continually urged, as though the whole controversy turned and terminated upon this allusion, than which nothing seems farther from the meaning of the text; which, in its true sense, appears to be this-- that as certainly as full clouds must empty themselves upon the terraqueous globe, and that every thing is what it is, and where it is, and no where else; and as a tree falling to the south, does not fall and lie to the north; and, vice versa, so, with the same certainty, shall liberality be blest and rewarded.
Friend. I have nothing to object to what yon have said upon the text; it appears natural. I formerly thought it indeed, that as persons were laid in the grave, so they should rise, and that there could be no change after death; but I am fully convinced, that this belongs not to the subject. But there is another passage, in the book of Ecclesiastes, (chap. ix. 4, 5, 6.) that I should be glad to hear your opinion of:-- "For to him that is joined to all the living, there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know, that they must die; but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also, their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever, in any thing that is done under the sun."
Minister. It is evident that the wise man, in this and many other of his observations, only considered things with respect to the present life, without any regard to a future state. In this view, his declarations are consistent with truth; but in no other. Let the following serve as a specimen.-- "No man knoweth either love or hatred, by all that is before them. All things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not; as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath," ver. 1, 2.-- Nothing could possibly be more false than these observations, applied to a future state, though they are generally true in this life; for if there are no future rewards and punishments, no state of retribution hereafter, there is an end to all religion. But he does not finally leave the matter so;but makes a most excellent conclusion to this book; saying.--
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear (or revere) GOD, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For GOD shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing whether it be good or whether it be evil, chap. xii. 13, 14.
Thus it is plain, that a living dog is better, (more useful in this world) than a dead lion; which is no longer capable of doing good or evil; that a man when he dies, loses all hopes of enjoyment in this life, and is rendered incapable of exercising the functions of it any longer; has no more a portion in any thing belonging thereto. Thus, in fine, all the observations that can be fairly made, upon tins and similar passages, belong entirely to the present state of things; and therefore, do not at all affect the argument, either one way or the other.
Friend. This is so plain, that nothing can be more so; but our Saviour's words (St. John ix. 4.) deserve a particular consideration. "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work;" -- which is explained commonly of the night of death, when no more works can be wrought.
Minister. Our Lord was diligent in his labor, he constantly went about doing good; he was never idle; he was in haste, till he had finished the work which his father had given him to do. In this he was--as in every thing else-- a glorious pattern and example for us! And, O that we might follow him! Now we may feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame; may take in the stranger, relieve the distressed, visit the sick, the fatherless, widows and prisoners in their affliction; may bury the dead, and constantly perform works of benevolence and mercy, while we remain in this state of our existence; which if we here neglect, we never can perform at all, and of consequence, never can obtain the rewards which are promised to the obedient; but as it is not the state of rewards and punishments that we are now discoursing about, but a state beyond-- even the Restoration of all things; neither is the dispute about what men can do after this life, but what God can do, or what he has purposed to do with and for them, in the ages to come, after the dreadful sentence is past; whether they shall be left under the same, while God exist; or whether they shall ever be restored; or whether they shall be annihilated; this, you know, is the state of the question; some hold the first and others the last; but I am apt to think both these opinions are extremes, and therefore judge it safest to maintain the second, which I take to be the medium here.
Friend. Indeed I am convinced, that no circumstance preceding the general judgement, can affect the argument; because we are informed, that the condemnation of the wicked shall be at that day, when God will render to them according to their deeds, and will say to them, Depart from me, &c.-- But the following texts of Scripture form a strong objection to the universal Restoration, which I would wish you well to consider.
"The expectation of the wicked shall perish; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish. Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.-- He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure. The heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. The eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape; and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost. His confidence, shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors. For what is the hope of the wicked, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will GOD hear his cry, when trouble cometh upon him? He that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish; and the hope of unjust men perisheth. Because I have called, and ye have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded. But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh. When your fear cometh as a desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind: when distress and anguish come upon you: then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer: they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of JEHOVAH. They would none of my counsel; they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices," Prov. x. 28. Job, viii. 13, 14, 15. xx. 27. xi. 20. xviii. 14. xxvii. 8, 9. Prov. xxix. 1. xi. 7. 1. 24--31.
These, and abundance of other similar passages, declare the future state of the wicked to be desperate, without hope; they and their hopes perish together, as the spider's web; they have no hopes or prospect of being redeemed; they can look for nothing but judgement and fiery indignation, which shall devour them as stubble fully dry, and as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. Solomon says. "The expectation of the wicked is wrath," Prov. xi. 23. o" As he loved cursing, so shall it come unto him; as he delighted not in blessing, so shall it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing, like as with his garment; so shall it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones." Psal. cix. 17, 18. Indeed he can have no hopes, when he considers that he hath neglected so great a salvation all his life; that he hath set at nought GOD'S counsels, despised his reproofs; that when his CREATOR called to him to turn, he had no ears to hear his voice; and therefore, when sorrow shall overtake, tho' he may cry, he shall not be regarded of God; and though he may seek, he shall not find; the Master of the house having risen up, and shut to the door, all knocking for entrance is in vain, even though such were to plead for admittance in the most earnest manner, saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us;" he shall answer, "I know you not whence you are;" and though they may reiterate, and expostulate, saying, "We have eaten and drank in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets," he shall not be moved, but shall say to them, "I tell you, I know you not whence you are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity-- There shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth, when they shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and they themselves thrust out." St. Luke, xiii. 25, 26, 27, 28.--See also St. Matth. vii. 21, 21, 23. xxv. 11, 12.
Minister. These are awful warnings, indeed; and were they attended to as they ought to be, would be sufficient, one would think, to deter men from their evil ways. I am glad that you liave staled them in this most striking point of light; for though they form no real objection to my views of God's dealing with men, as I understand the Scriptures, they are an insuperable bar to the opinions of those who deny a future state of retribution, which I think impossible for them to answer fairly. I shall, however, notice briefly, some things in this collection of Scriptures, in order that my sentiments may appear in their true light.
1. All the hopes of the wicked, ungodly, and hypocrites, shall perish at their death.
Perhaps they hoped to have lived long, to have enjoyed health, wealth, pleasure, and all worldly good, for many years; to have seen their children for many generations, flourishing for a long time on earth; but death destroys these hopes.
The hypocrites might have hoped that they should have been accepted with God, on the account of their birth, parentage, profession, rank among the people of God, observation of the externals of religion, &c. &c. all of which vain hopes do certainly perish at death.
The profane and wicked infidel, and practical atheist, might have hoped, either to have ceased to exist, or to have found some way of escaping the threatened punishment; but death destroys these hopes also.
2. Whatever may be the final intention of God towards these miserable creatures, it is evident they are shut up in a state of keen tormenting despair, or dreadful suspence, and may be fully persuaded that they shall never be released, of which it is likely they may not have even the most distant hope, or the least degree of knowledge-- but, on the contrary, be in fearful expectation of more terrible punishment hereafter.
3. As they have lived and died in sin, their destruction, or misery, is certain-- and there is no remedy that can prevent their experiencing the consequences of their crimes, and suffering the just punishment which shall be inflicted oa thriii, according to their different deserts.
4. They who live and die in rebellion against God, will be eternally deprived of the glories & honors of the kingdom of Christ, which otherwise they might have possessed; will be excluded from a share in the first resurrection, and will be exposed to suffer the torments of the second death; which all must inevitably suffer, who remain incorrigible till the great day of judgement.
5. As God hath called, and they have refused, it is but reasonable to suppose, that they in their turn, shall cry in vain yet nevertheless, though he may long delay, he may hear their cries, and deliver them at last. See Psal. cvii. 13, 14, 15, 16.
David, in his Psalm xxxivth, says, "The face of JEHOVAH is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth." Our translators not understanding, or not entertaining an idea of the future Restoration, add, "The righteous cry, and JEHOVAH heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles." Whereas the Holy Ghost has put no such words as the righteous into the text there; but after saying, that the face of JEHOVAH is against them that do evil, to destroy them out of the world, and to make them forgotten, and their names to cease upon the earth, it adds, a word that signifies Crying, and then says, "And JEHOVAH heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles;" See ver. 16, 17. This seems indeed like the doctrine of the Bible, which elsewhere says, speaking of the notoriously wicked; O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. As the fire burneth the wood; and as the flame setteth the mountain on fire; so persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek thy name, O JEHOVAH. Let them be confounded, and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish. And they shall know (as the Hebrew word signifies, and as it is rendered in the old translation) that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth." Psal. Ixxxtii, 13, 13. Here we see, in a beautiful and clear manner, that one grand design of God in bringing judgements, and even what is called utter destruction, upon men, is that they .may know that he is JEHOVAH, the true God; and there are but few intelligent Christians, but must in some measure, be able to conceive hopes concerning all those to whom the knowledge of God is promised.
Though the threatenings in the prophecy of Ezekiel, both against the Jews and other nations, are uncommonly severe; yet they frequently close with this gracious promise-- "And they shall know that I am JEHOVAH," or something similar; as will evidently appear to those who will be at the pains of examining the following passages in that book:
EZEKIEL, vi. 7, 10, 13, 14. vii. 4, 9, 27. xi. 10, 12. xii. 15, 16,20. xii. 9, 14, 21,23. xiv. 8. xv. 7. xv-i. 62. xx. 12, 20, 26,38, 42, 44. x.xii. 16. xxiii. 49. xxiv, 24, 27. xxv. 5, 7, 11, 17. xxvi. 6, xxviii. 22, 23,24,26. xxix. 6, 9, 16,21. MX. 8, 19, 25, 26. xxxii. 15. xxxiii. 29. xxxiv. 27. xxxv. 4, 9, 12, 15. xxxvi. 11, 23,38. xxxvii. 6r 13. xxxviii. 23. xxxix. 67, 22, 28.
Friend. But does not punishment harden and inflame offenders instead of softening and humbling them? As we read Isa. viii. 21. "They shall curse their King and their God, and look upward;" and in Rev. xvi. 9, 10, 11. "And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory. And they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of Heaven, because of their pains and their sores; and repented not of their deeds."
Minister. Punishment to a certain degree, inflames and enrages, in a most amazing manner; but continued longer, and heavier, produces a contrary effect--softens humbles, and subdues. When Ephraim of old, bemoaned himself, he said thus:-- "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art JEHOVAH, my God." Jer. xxxi. 18. The metaphor here used, expresses in a most lively manner the different effects of the same discipline, in its beginning, progress, and end. When a bullock first has the yoke laid on his neck, he frets, tosses, and rages exceedingly; but by a continuance of the discipline, he is subdued, brought down, humbled and tamed, go as to become the most useful and gentle of animals. The sons of Zion are represented as lying "at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net; full of the fury of JEHOVAH, the rebuke of God." Isaiah, li. 20. A wild bull, in a net must be a furious creature; so are men when first they are brought under the Divine correction. But God knows how to correct men, in such a manner as to bring them to submit to him, in due time; and though some are so sunk in sin as not to be reformed, by any means in this life: yet that is no argument, that God is not able to subdue and bring down the proud and most rebellious in another state, by means that may be used effectually there, though they could not be used here. God says, by the prophet to Israel, "Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee. So will I make my fury towards thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee; and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry." Ezek. xxiv. 13. xvi. 42. Some sins are so daring and presumptuous, as to provoke God to threaten, that they shall not be purged away in this life; and, perhaps their malignancy may be so great, that nothing that can be used here is able to subdue them. Thus, when God threatened his people, of old, with destruction, they turned his threatenings into ridicule; instead of weeping, mourning, baldness, and girding with, sackcloth, to which God called them; there was nothing but "joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine.-- Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. And it was revealed in mine cars, by JEHOVAH of Hosts, surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith JEHOVAH, God of Israel." Isai. xxii. 12, I3, 14.
Thus, punishments are designed for the humbling of the proud; but if they fail of answering that purpose, as administered in the present state, they will be continued and increased in future periods, to such a degree, as shall bring all down in due time. Those pains which produced that rage, and blasphemy, which you mentioned, were all poured out on hardened sinners in the present life; and were so terrible and severe as to produce those fearful effects, but not sufficiently so as to produce the contrary.
That punishment, to a certain degree, produces rage, but to a certain degree beyond, produces submission; may be illustrated by the following fact, as well as many others, of the same nature.
In the former war between England and France, there was one Mr. M___ , of Virginia, who was wagon-master-general in the army of the Provincials. He was guilty of abusing bis power, by frequently striking the soldiers with his wagon whip. Complaint being made, a court martial was held, and he was sentenced to receive five hundred lashes; which sentence was executed upon him. When he first began to feel the lash, he was exceedingly enraged, and cursed those who had thus sentenced him; swearing that if he lived to be released, he would kill them all, if possible; for that he valued not his life in the least, but would revenge this disgrace, by killing them, wherever he found them; and much more to the same purpose. But, before he had received half his punishment, he declared, that he had not the least disposition to lift his hand against them; he saw clearly that they had acted right; that he had been entirely to blame; and that his punishment was just. After his correction was over, he was led quietly away, entirely cured of all his rage; from which he was as much freed by his punishment, as ever an effect was produced by a cause. He was healed of his wounds, and, I think, restored to his post. Some time after the war was over, he was passing one day over those mountains in Virginia, commonly called The Blue Ridge; and there he met alone one of the men who had condemned him, in the court martial, to such a punishment. He put him in mind of it; and. told him that it was now in his power to retaliate upon him. The other acknowledged that he was in his power; but added, "M___, you know you did wrong, and deserved the punishment you received; and if you kill me, I declare, that we did right in sentencing you to- be whipped; I should do the same, were it to do again; and so would you have done, had you been in my place." Mr. M___ acknowledged the truth of it; and was so far from fulfilling his threatenings, that he suffered him logo in peace, highly commending him for his conduct. Mr. M___ may be still living; he was a general in the American army during the late war, and acquired great honor, for his valor and good conduct.
This I think is an argument ad hominem. I have often observed instances of the same nature, in a less degree; and I think it must be admitted, that although a certain degree of punishment will inflame, harden and enrage; yet farther degrees produce quite contrary effects. Nor is punishment the only thing in nature that produces contrary effects, according to the quantity used; almost all things do the same, thus water with a little salt in it, will cause putrefaction, much sooner than perfectly fresh water; but let it be saturated with salt, and it will preserve bodies that are cast therein. A little salt cast on the earth is good manure, and causes fruitfulness; but a greater quantity produces the contrary effect, by causing barrenness. A little wine refreshes, cheers, invigorates; but taken to excess, stupifies and intoxicates. And, to mention no more instances, a little smattering of knowledge puffs up the mind; but a greater degree, humbles and brings it down: From whence,
"Drink deep, or never taste the spring."
Friend. But let me ask you: when you view the miserable state of fallen men, the inveterate obstinacy of their wills, the total aversion that many have to God, and goodness, their confirmed habits of evil, their amazing love of vice, their opposition to every method taken to reclaim them, and a thousand other dreadful circumstances, which you must have observed; are you not ready to despair of their recovery; not for any want of goodness in God, but through their total incapacity of ever being made better.
Minister. I must confess, this objection has great weight; and I have often been ready to give up my own salvation, on account of the evils of my own heart, which sometimes rise, and prevail in such a manner, as almost drives me to despair; and I can find no relief but by flying to Jesus, as my only refuge, and trusting in his promises; and the case is the same with respect to the Restoration of all men. My weak reason tells me, that it cannot be; that it is absolutely impossible, that such hardened rebels can be so changed to eternity, as to become willing and obedient subjects; but when faith prevails, it informs me, that the things which are impossible with men, are possible with God; that nothing is too hard for JEHOVAH; and that he hath said--" Behold I am JEHOVAH, the God of all flesh; is there any thing too hard for me?" Jer. xxxii. 27. And the example of Abraham has often proved a great support to me in this case; "who, against hope, believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, so shall thy seed be; and being not weak in faith, he considered not" the impediments, which, to the eye of reason, rendered the accomplishment of the promises improbable, if not impossible.-- "He staggered not at the promises of God, through unbelief: but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform:" Rom. iv. 18, 19, 20, 21.
This is the only way I answer this objection to my satisfaction-- God hath sworn, that to him every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear, Isaiah xlv. 24.-- That in the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, things on earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, Phil. ii. 10, 11. That it is the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself, in the dispensation of the fulnes of the times, to gather together, or rehead, in one, all things in Christ; both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him, Ephes. i. 9, 10. And having made peace through the blood of his cross, he is determined to reconcile all things unto himself; whether things in heaven, or things on earth, Col. i. 20. -- That he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, Ephes. i. 11. That he will have all men to be saved, or restored, & to come unto the knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim. ii. 6. That the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands, St. John, iii. 35. And that Christ hath said, "All that the Father giveth me, shall come unto me; and him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." St. John, vi. 37. When I consider these, and many such like promises, which I find in the Scriptures; and that he that hath promised, is able to perform; hath wisdom, power and goodness, sufficient to accomplish all his words, how difficult or impossible soever the matter may seem, to our carnal, vain and weak reasoning; I cast the whole of my concern upon him; judging that he is faithful, who hath promised, and that, in his own time he will fulfil all his purposes, and all his promises. But I confess to you, that it requires a faith, if possible, more strong than that of Abraham, to believe the doctrine of the Restoration steadfastly, in the midst of so much evil as prevails in the world, and which seems to render it impossible: but my only hope is in God.
But, to encourage us the more, there are not only promises of what God will do, but examples of what he hath done, recorded in Scripture, as the cases of Manasseh, Nebuchadnezzar, Mary Magdalen, Saul, and many of the murderers of our Lord, priests, and even Pharisees, are left on record, as patterns of God's long suffering, power, mercy and love. And 1 would advise those christians that doubt of the Universal Reconciliation of all things, to remember St. Paul's words to the Colossians, on this subject, chap. i. 21. "And you that were some time alienated, and enemies in your mind, by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled;" as a proof and example of his power to reconcile all things. Let all remember that their own stubbornness; and the.n instead of reviling and deriding a truth which God has revealed, they will adore him, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; who "doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?" Rom. xi. 36. Dan. iv. 3.5.
Friend. But allowing that God has power to change the hearts of the vilest of men, is not the exercise of that power evidently limited? For I find it written in Rev. xxii. 11. "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still, and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still." By these words it seems to be intimated, that the characters of both the wicked and the righteous, shall at some period be so confirmed and fixed, as to admit of no change or alteration.
Minister. This appears to be a considerable difficulty, but can by no means overthrow the system of the Restoration, which seems established upon many gracious promises. The words seem to refer to a particular period, even when the Lord shall come, and shew that his coming will not (as some suppose) change the characters of men; but that all shall continue for a certain time, in the same character as before. But though he that is unjust, shall be unjust still; and he that is filthy, shall be filthy still--during the age of judgement; and shall have the dreadful curse pronounced upon him; for, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema Maranatha;" that is, accursed, the Lord cometh, 1 Cor. xvi. 22. Yet 1 trust I have proved, that the vilest shall be finally changed; and consequently, that theue words must be understood with some limitation. And thus though this text is plainly contrary to the opinion of those who suppose that all the human race shall be admitted into the kingdom of heaven at the day of judgement, yet it may well be reconciled to the system laid down in these Dialogues; especially if it can be proved that similar expressions are used, where a limitation is supposed, or necessarily implied.
Friend. Yes; if you can find similar expressions used for limited times, it will be satisfactory.
Minister. St. Paul says, 1 Cor. xiv. 38. "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant." But we can hardly suppose that he meant without limitation. So we read of the Jews, that "God hath given them the spirit of slumber; eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, unto this day." And David saith;-- "Let their table be made a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them. Let their eyes be darkened that they should not see, and bow down their back alway," Rom. xi. 8, 9, 10. These expressions of their remaining in a blinded, hardened, and reprobate state, are stronger than those-- "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still, &c. for, instead of still, the word alway is used; and yet we are informed, that this "blindness in part has (only) happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in: and so all Israel shall be saved." And that "God hath concluded them all (or, shut them up together) in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all," even all whom he had shut up, or concluded in unbelief. And, as I observed before, David says; "Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek thy name, O JEHOVAH. Let them be confounded and troubled forever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish: that they may know that thou whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most High over all the earth," Psalm Ixxxiii. 16, 17, 18. Many other similar passages might be mentioned; but these may suffice, to shew, that often where the words let it, or let them be, in such and such a state, they only intend a certain period, until another dispensation takes place. As for righteousness, holiness, and happiness, they have quite a different foundation from sin and impurity, as I have shewn before: and therefore, no arguments used in favor of the total destruction of evil, can, in the least, prove, that goodness, which is the divine essence, shall cease: but the contrary: and those who are firmly joined to the Lord, and have continued with him through the state of temptation, shall never cease to be righteous, nor be separated from their Head, from whom they shall derive eternal life: for Christ hath said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." St. John xiv. 19.
Christ, at his coming, will bring every hidden thing to light, and shall take off all disguises: so that he that is unjust, shall appear unjust: and he that is filthy, shall be discovered: hypocrisy shall be no more. "The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful," Isai. xxxii. 5. "Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked: and between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not," Mal. iii. 18. The judgement of God is according to truth, and, is designed to make an entire discovery of all persons, and all secret things, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God," Rom. iii. 19. But though judgement has its great use in discovering, laying open, convincing and condemning: and punishment in destroying, subduing and humbling: yet the powerful, saving grace of God, and the operation of the Divine Spirit, must have the glory of restoring, or creating men anew: and the blood of Jesus must cleanse their souls from the guilt and pollution of sin. Evil must be destroyed out of them: this is done by afflictions: and goodness must be restored: this is done by God's renewing power and grace.
But the objection may be answered another way, without any of this reasoning by considering the subject comparatively. Thus; as God only is holy; as none are good but he, in an absolute sense; as he putteth no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not clean in his sight, and his angels he chargeth with folly; (See Job xv. 15. iv. 18.) and as all intelligences, compared with him, are unjust and unclean; so, those who have lived and died in rebellion against God, and in the pollution of sin, may remain unjust and filthy, compared with the saints, those vessels of honor and glory, who have purged themselves. "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood, and of earth; and some to honor and some to dishonor. If a man therefore, purge himself from these (sins) he shall be a vessel of honor, sanctified and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work." 2. Tim. ii. 20, 21. Here we may observe, that in our Lord's great house there shall be divers vessels of various kinds, yet all useful, but some more highly so than others: that honor and dishonor are comparative terms: and that the way to become vessels of the highest honor at last, is to purge ourselves from Iniquity while on earth, by obeying the truth. For it must appear evident, from the nature of things, that there will always be an immense difference between those who shall be kings and priests to God, and those who shall be subdued in the ages to come, so as to be subjects, but who shall not attain to that honor and glory, which they shall have who suffer with Christ here, and shall be glorified with him hereafter.
Friend. Since I have conversed with you I must acknowledge that many things have appeared in a different light from what they did before; and if 1 do not wholly embrace the doctrine of the Restoration, I must iillow that there is much more to be said for it than I could have imagined. But I have still some difficulties that 1 wish to propose. There is a terrible threatening which is indeed the last in the Bible, that I should be glad to hear your thoughts upon, which is thus expressed, (Reve. xxii. 18, 19.) "For I testify unto every man, that heareth the words of this prophecy of this book. If any man shall add unto these things, GOD shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, GOD shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." But I can almost foresee how you will answer this; that though the plagues that are written in this book, shall be added, yet mercy shall finally rejoice against judgement; though a man's part may be taken out of the book of life, and he, in consequence, suffer the torments of (he second death; yet, as a time will come, when there shall be no more death of any kind, neither sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain; his Restoration may be certainly inferred; and though his part in the heavenly city may be forfeited, so that he may never become one of those who shall reign therein, nor yet have a constant dwelling there; he may, nevertheless, enter as a worshipper, and a subject of the great king; and may drink of the water of life; feed on the fruits of the life, and be healed by its leaves; and be one of the happy inhabitants of the earth, which God will create.
Minister. Yes, my friend: but though this Scripture may be easily reconciled to the plan laid down in these dialogues; it contains such threatenings as are very terrible indeed: and should make us exceeding careful not to contradict what God hath here revealed, by adding vain interpretations of our own, contrary to the sense of the text: nor in any wise to explain away or weaken, the force of either the threatenings or promises, set forth in this wondrous book. The amazing torments which they shall feel that have these plagues added to them, and the dreadful loss which they shall sustain that have their part taken out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, cannot be even conceived: and it being possible to forfeit this glorious portion entirely, and for ever, made St. Paul warn the Hebrews in such a solemn manner as he doth throughout the whole epistle.--Oh, what affecting advice is the following!--"Looking diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled: lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat, sold his birthright. For ye know, how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessings, he was rejected: for ho found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully, with tears," Heb. xii. 15, 16, 17.
"Poor Esau repented too late,
That once he his birthright despis'd;
And sold for a morsel of meat,
What could not too highly be priz'd.
"How great was his anguish, when told,
The blessing he sought to obtain
Was gone, when the birthright he sold;
And none could recal it again!"
Thus, though Esau, as well as Jacob, was blessed concerning things to come: (See Heb. xi. 20) yet their birthright, and the particular blessings connected therewith, he lost forever: and so it is possible that we may lose our parts in the holy city, or no such threatenings would ever have been made. For it is a maxim with me-- that God never warns where there is no danger to fear: and never encourages us to hope, where there is no possibility of obtaining.
As the glorious and universal deliverance of all men from the bondage of sin, and their obtaining an inheritance in the new earth, was clearly pointed out by the great year of Jubilee, under the law: in which every servant went out free, & every man returned to his possession, and to his family: (See Lev. xxv. 10.) So, the possibility of being cut off from the holy city, for ever, was pointed out by that notable exception, ver. 29, 30. "And if a man sell a dwelling-house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold: within a full year, he may redeem it. And if it be not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house that is in the walled city shall be established for ever to him that bought it, throughout his generations: it shall not go out in the Jubilee."
Something similar to this may be found in Rev. iii. 11,-- "Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown:" and the 5th verse is also worthy of consideration--"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment: and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life: but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."-- O, what promises are made to overcomers! That they shall eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God: shall have a crown of life: and shall not be hurt of the second death: shall eat of the hidden manna: shall have a white stone, and a new name, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it: shall have power over the nations, &c. even as Christ received of the father: shall walk with him in white: shall be esteemed worthy to be companions and friends of God: shall be clothed in white: shall have their names enrolled among the followers of the Lamb, as called, chosen, and faithful: shall be confessed by the Son of God, before his Father and the holy angels; shall be made pillars in the temple of God, and shall go no more out; shall have the name of God written upon their foreheads, and the name of the holy city, New Jerusalem and Christ's new, heavenly name: shall sit with him upon his throne, even as he overcame, and is set down with the Father, upon his throne: shall inherit all things: shall be called the sons of God: see Rev. ii. 7, 10, 11, 17, 26, 27. iii. 4, 5, 12, 21. xvii. 14. xxi. 7.
The apostle assures us, that "If (we are) children, then (we are) heirs: heirs of God,
and joint heirs with Christ: if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also
glorified together." And then adds--"For I reckon that the sufferings of the present
time, are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom.
viii. 17, 18. "When Christ, who is our lite shall appear; then shall ye (his saints) also
appear with him in glory." Col. iii. 4. "We know, that when he shall appear, we shall be
like him: for we shall see him as he is." 1 John, iii. 2. But let none of those who
believe themselves the heirs of this kingdom, &c. dare to indulge themselves in sin,
under a notion that God can never cast them off:
as some do.
A preacher whom I once knew, encouraged this wickedly presumptuous disposition so far, as, openly to say: "God cannot damn me: He can as soon cease to be God, as he can cast me off: even though I should sin ever so much. If I should kill a man, he could not damn me: nay, if I should kill all the men in the world, he cannot damn me."--This man was rigid in trifles, religiously scrupulous in frivolous things, such as dress, &c. yet he made traffic of the human kind, engaged in war, and performed acts of cruelty and outrage with as little tenderness as may be imagined! He long bloated himself with a notion of God's peculiar favor--but near the close of his life, the displeasure of the Almighty coming visibly upon him, the rhapsodist changed his tone, and exclaimed, that God had forsaken him!
I would advise all men, of that bold, presuming, selfconfident spirit, to read and consider well those words, in Jer. xxii. 24. "As I live saith JEHOVAH, though Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet upon my right hand; yet I would pluck thee thence."
Consider, first, who speaks, JEHOVAH: He not only speaks, but he confirms his threatening with an oath; and because he could not swear by no greater, he sware by himself, by his own life; "As I live, saith JEHOVAH, tho' Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah," though he is of the family of David, with whom I have made an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure; and though he is anointed king over my people; I will not spare him; yea, though he "were the signet upon my right hand; yet would I pluck thee thence." Signets, upon the hands of ancient Persian monarchs, were those seals with which their decrees were sealed and confirmed; so that no man could reverse them. Now, Goddeclares, that if this man was ever so dear, and as necessary, to him, as the signet on the right hand of a king is to its owner; that though he was not able to govern his kingdom without his assistance; though he had been the dearest and most useful thing; he would entirely cast him off, for bis transgression. And how much more so, if it be considered, that no man is necessary to God; that man cannot be profitable to him; that neither our wickedness can hurt him, nor our righteousness benefit him: (See Job,xxii. 2, 3. xxxv. 6,7, 8. Psal. xvi. 2, 3.) And he threatens to punish the only family that he had known on the earth, for all their iniquities, Amos, iii. 2. What have not those to fear, who have been placed in high stations, entrusted with precious treasures, great abilities, opportunities, &c. and have abused them!-- Let such read, and seriously consider; Luke, xii. 42, 48. Matth. xxiv. 45--15. 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21, 32.
Friend. These considerations are, on one hand glorious and sublime, beyond conception; and, on the other, terrible beyond description. But some say, that if they are only admitted in to the kingdom of God, and are not cast into the lake of fire, it is the highest of their ambition; that they never aspire to be kings and priests; nor to obtain a crown, throne, sceptre, &c. And others say, that if they are ever, to all eternity, to be delivered from their misery that It is a matter of little consequence to them whether they are followers of Christ here, or not.
Minister. These kind of reflections are frequently thrown out by the enemies of the Restoration, to cast an odium upon the doctrine But if they were to hear a man say; "If I am just suffered to enter into this kingdom, and am not condemned as a rebel, it is all I wish; I desire neither the riches, honors, pleasures, conveniences, nor even the necessaries that many of the inhabitants enjoy; all I ask is to be exempted from the pain and shame of public punishment." And another was to add-- "I can see little or no difference between being made hier apparent to the crown, possessing all the privileges, honors, dignities, &c. of a prince of the blood; and being hanged, drawn, and quartered, for high treason; since even the punishment, painful and shameful as it is, must come to an end;" I ask, would they not esteem both these men in a state of insanity, or worse; entirely devoid of all sense and reason? Yet, this unreasonable language, is not worthy to be named in the same day with that which you mentioned. The difference is so great I cannot find language to express it. I therefore consider all such persons as madmen, with whom it is not worth while to reason; who understand not what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
Friend. So they appear to me. But the system you have laid down appears equally calculated to check presumption and despair, and to cure all such spiritual madness; provided that they will attend to it.--But what will you say to the doctrine of annihilation? That may not be liable to the same objections as endless damnation; and so the wicked may be punished with everlasting destruction, and destroyed, soul and body, in hell; and yet, at last, all beings that are in existence may be made happy. The Scripture seems, in many places, to favor this idea; and the works of nature seem to confirm it. For instance; many fruits and animals perish, before they arrive at perfection; and why may it not be so with the souls and bodies of men? They are no .where said to be raised to corruption, or immortality; but to be destroyed, to be cast into the lake of fire, to be burnt up, root and branch; to be consumed, devoured, burnt up as chaff, thorns, &c. I need not mention particular texts; because the general part of the threatenings in the Scriptures run in that style. And I have sometimes of late reasoned with myself, that the second death must end either in the Restoration or annihilation of those who were cast therein; for there seemed something in endless misery, that surpassed my belief, at times. But I could not satisfy myself whether the wicked would be finally restored to some degree of happiness, or totally destroyed; and was apt to think the latter, as it seemed a strange figure of speech to call destruction, Restoration -- Pray, have you ever thought upon this matter?
Minister. There are but three possible things that can bcfal those that are cast into the second death; either endless misery, total annihilation or Restoration; a fourth cannot be thought upon; and but one of these can be true. Now, where there are only three possibilities, of which only one can be true, and one must be true; there are these two ways of discovering the truth; first, if two of the propositions are proved to be absurd, the third must stand: 2dly, if one be proved true, the others, must fall to the ground of consequence. I have taken the second method; and having shewed that the doctrine of the Restoration is not absurd, and therefore that it is true; consequently, the others are false.-- But, besides this way of arguing there are three circumstances which prove to my satisfaction, that annihilation is not a truth.
1. That at the very time that the wicked are destroyed, they are said to be tormented
with fire and brimstone ; and that they have no rest, day nor night; and the continuance
of this is for no short time, (as would probably be the case, if the intention of God was
only to destroy them out of being) but for the age of ages. Rev. xiv. 10, 11.
2. They are put to shame and perish, that they may know the Lord as I have noticed before : See Psal. xxxiv. 16,17. lxxxiii, 16, 17, 18-- and the observations I havemade upon these passages in the dialogues.
3. But that on which I dare venture the whole cause, is, that God hath absolutely promised to restore and bring again those whom he hath utterly destroyed.
Friend. Can you prove that? For if you can, it will settle the whole controversy.
Minister. I trust I can, in many instances: But I will fix upon one that is full to the purpose, and is unexceptionable; and that is the case of Sodom, and her daughters, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim; who, "giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," Jude 7.
As they are set forth for an example in their punishment, so also in their
restoration: For we may certainly argue, that if any of the human race shall be
annihilated, the inhabitants of Sodom, Gomorrah,
&c. will be; as they were condemned with an overthrow, and made an example to those
who should after live ungodly. 2 Pet. ii 6. But these wicked nations shall have their
captivity returned; shall return to their former estate; and shall be received by
Jerusalem, as daughters in the everlasting
covenant: Jerusalem and her daughters, more
wicked themselves, than Sodom and her daughters,
shall be restored at the same time ; shall remember their ways and be ashamed ; shall
never open mouth any more to glory over the meanest of mankind; when the great
JEHOVAH shall be pacified towards Jerusalem, for all that she has done, and towards
Sodom and Samaria, for all that they have done also, inasmuch as they
shall return from their long captivity, and be given to Jerusalem for daughters : See Ezek, xvi. 53, 55,61,63.
Now by Sodom and her daughters being returned from their long and dreadful captivity, we must understand one of the three things; either, first, the return of their descendants; or, secondly, the restoration of the land whereon the cities stood; or, lastly, the restoration of those very persons who were destroyed.
It cannot be the first; for there are none of their descendants remaining on earth: all were destroyed by fireand brimstone; none of the inhabitants escaped, Lot and his daughters excepted; who were only sojourners, and were the descendants of Terah and relations to Abraham.
As it cannot be the first let us try the second. A very ingenious gentleman supposes, that in the time of the Millennium, the Dead Sea shall be turned into land, and shall again become a beautiful well watered plain, and be given to the posterity of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: For he argues, and seemingly very justly, that as God promised Abraham all the land which he could see from the place where he then stood; (See Gen. xiii. 14, 15, 16, 17) and as the plain of Sodom was in sight, it was included in the grant: and though the Dead Sea now occupies the place where those cities stood; yet God's promise cannot fail; and therefore, in the Millennium, the Dead Sea shall be swallowed up, and the place shall become a fruitful plain. But whoever will read Ezek. xlvii. 8,9,10,11, may plainly see, that the waters that shall issue out from under the threshold of the holy house, shall be brought into the Dead Sea; and shall so heal those deadly waters, that they shall become fruitful, and bring forth fish in great abundance; exceeding many; like the great sea, which is now called the Mediterranean; which fish shall be more useful for food, to the innumerable inhabitants that shall then be in that happy country, than all the vegetables that would grow there, even though the whole place was turned into a fruitful garden.
Friend. But are you certain, that by the sea, is meant the Dead Sea, or Lake of Sodom?
Minister. Yes. 1. Because all the other waters in those parts, produce great plenty of excellent fish; and therefore, need not healing. 2. Because fishers shall stand upon the banks of the sea, from Engedi even unto Eneglaim, places that are well known to be contiguous, to the Dead Sea; one of which is nearly at the northeast corner, the other at the west end of the same. 3. The marshes, and the miry places thereof, shall not be healed; but shall be given to salt, as specimens of what the whole is at this time; which barren and deadly spots shall remain, as standing evidences of the truth of Scripture, and the exact fulfilment of prophecy.
Thus, as Sodom cannot be restored in her posterity, there being none remaining on earth; neither shall the Dead Sea be turned into land, in the Millennium; it follows, as the only remaining sense of the return of Sodom's captivity, that those very inhabitants, who were destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven, shall be restored to a state of felicity. And thus, both the doctrine of annihilation and endless damnation, fall to the ground at once.
Friend. But as it is the second death, after the day of judgement, that is to destroy the bodies and souls of the wicked in hell; perhaps, the inhabitants of Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem, may be restored before that period, and may not be cast into the lake of fire.
Minister. It is evident by our Saviour's words, (for we must not contradict any part of the Scriptures) that this will not be the case; for he saith, that it shall be more tolerable for the land (that is, the inhabitants) of Sodom, in the day of judgement, than for the cities where his gospel was preached, and his miracles wrought, and yet the inhabitants remained impenitent: See St. Matth. xi. 24. x. 15. St. Mark, vi. 11. St. Luke, x. 12. From all which passages it is evident, that the inhabitants of Sodom will be condemned in the day of judgement, and punished in the lake of fire; and though their misery will not be so great as that of the inhabitants of the cities where our Saviour preached, and performed his mighty works; yet they will be miserable in that day; and, consequently, the return of their captivity is not to he expected, till after the creation of the new earth. Therefore, it is plain, that the lake of fire is not designed to annihilate those who are cast therein: since all that are not found written in the book of life, at the day of judgement, will be cast into the lake of fire. They whose names are in .the book of life, will be happy. The inhabitants of Sodom will be miserable, in some degree; therefore, will not be found written in the book of life; consequently, will be cast into the lake of fire. They will be restored; their captivity shall be returned; therefore the lake of fire shall not annihilate them. They are set forth for an example in their punishment; and consequently, in their Restoration.-- I need not pursue this argument farther. Itappears evident to me; and till it be fairly answered, I shall add nothing more.
Friend. I lately read a sermon written by one Mr. B___ , in which the writer brings many strong reasons for the eternity of hell torments, most of which have already been mentioned and answered in these Dialogues; but he makes use. of one which has not yet been brought under our consideration, which is, that the damned are under the necessity of constantly committing fresh sin, and therefore as they will always continue to sin against God, so of necessity their punishment can never cease. Have you ever thought of this?
Minister. Yes, I have frequently heard it mentioned, but as It appears totally void of all foundation in the Scripture, it hardly deserves any notice. The objections that I feel myself concerned to treat with- seriousness and respect, and candidly to answer, are those which appear to be drawn from the book of divine Revelation; but if I must attend to all those which the ingenuity of men might raise against the doctrine of the Restoration, I should not only have a very hard task, but should never know when I had done, and besides the discourse would dwindle into trifling and conjectures, very unsuitable to the nature and importance of such an awful serious subject. I must observe, that this objection is nothing but a rash ungrounded assertion, or bold conjecture, without the least foundation either in Scripture, or reason, and if I was to assert just the contrary, I cannot see why my assertion would not be a sufficient answer. Nevertheless, lest it should be thought that any objection can be raised, that cannot be fairly answered, and that I, knowing the strength of this, would willingly evade it, I will say a few words upon it. The Scriptures universally hold forth the idea, that men will be judged, condemned, and punished according to the deeds done in the body. "God will render to every man according to his deeds." Rom. ii. 6. "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." 2. Cor. v. 10.
"And that servant which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes," St. Luke, xii. 47, 48.-- These, and all the passages that speak of future punishment, constantly hold it forth as a just retribution for the evil deeds done in this life; but never inti- mate any thing of what this objection holds forth, of punishment being continued ad infinitum for crimes committed hereafter. Besides, it is plain that punishments or corrections are intended to stop men from sinning, andunder the divine agency to take away their sins. "By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin," Isai. xxvii. 9. This is universally allowed to be the design of troubles and sorrows in the present life and why not in the next state also? The Scripture says nothing to forbid this idea, but much to encourage it; particularly that awful passage where the prophet says, and it was revealed in mine ears by JEHOVAH of Hosts, surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you, till ye die, saith the Lord God of Hosts." Isai. xxii. 14. If then iniquity shall be purged away after death, it is certain that men shall not always continue to sin in a future state, for they must cease to commit iniquity, before it can be purged away. And though their punishments may at first cause them to rage, (as we see is frequently the case in this world) yet they continue until the most stubborn shall be entirely subdued and humbled.
Friend. There is another argument of this same kind, viz. that is not founded upon any particular text of Scripture, which is directly contrary to the one you have been answering, which I have formerly thought unanswerable in favor of the doctrine of endless punishment, which is the infinity of sin, being against an infinite object, containing infinite hatefulness, and justly therefore deserving infinite punishment. Sin is a crime of infinite magnitude, because God is a Being of infinite majesty and perfection.-- Every crime justly demerits punishment proportioned to its malignity! and consequently every offence against God demerits infinite punishment. No mere creature can ever suffer an infinity of punishment in any limited duration. It follows therefore, that a sinner deserves to be eternally punished. Farther, every man is under infinite obligations to devote himself to the service of God, his infinitely glorious Creator, Preserver and Benefactor. To violate an infinite obligation is to commit a crime of infinite malignity. A crime of infinite malignity, deserves infinite punishment. Can it ever be proved then that everlasting, or endless punishment is not the proper desert of a life of sin? I have often said, that this argument, trite and common as it is, never was, nor ever would be fairly answered: nevertheless, I am willing to hear what you have to say upon it.
Minister. As this argument, is often urged, as of the greatest weight, and as you have stated it in its greatest possible force, I shall endeavor to answer it fairly and particularly.
If sin is infinite, then we must ascribe to it one of the perfections of the Deity, which strikes me as something absurd, if not something worse; sin, a privation, an act of a worm, infinite? Actions must, in my opinion take their denomination from the actors, and not from the objects. Infinite actions, or actions of infinite magnitude require infinite power to perform them. If sin is of infinite magnitude, goodness is more so, as deriving a power from God to the performance of it. But if you grant that David spoke in the name of the Mediator in Psalm xvi, you may be at once furnished with a proof, that even goodness, in the highest state in which it ever was exhibited in the world, was not considered as of infinite magnitude by the great performer. "Thou hast said unto JEHOVAH, Thou art my Lord; my goodness extendeth not to thee. Bui to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight," verse 2, 3. If acts of goodness were of infinite magnitude they must extend to God, but the speaker, in these words, be he who he may, David or Christ, was careful to let us know that he did not conceive his acts of goodness infinite. And if acts of goodness are not infinite, it would be absurd to call evil actions infinite, which proceed wholly from the creature.
I grant indeed that there is a passage of Scripture which mentions the word infinite as belonging to sin and iniquity, but then it is mentioned in such a connexion as shows it to be used as Josephus frequently mentions it, for a very great multitude. And thus it is used by many good authors, who certainly do not mean to use - it in the first and proper sense of the word. The sacred writer, in the passage alluded to, takes particular care to 'guard us against any such idea, ns though sin was of infinite magnitude, or even virtuous and righteous actions, which approach far nearer to infinity, as having their source -from the fountain of infinite goodness. For Eliphaz says, "Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? Or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect? Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? Will he enter with thee into judgement? Is not thy wickedness great? And thine iniquities infinite?" Job, xxii. 2, 5. And language very similar to the above is used by Elihu, "If thou sinnest what dost thou against him? Or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him? If thou be righteous, what givest thou him? Or what receiveth he of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man," Job, xxxv. 6, 7, 8.
These expressions, if they teach any thing, I should think, expressly declare, that no actions of men can by any means be of infinite magnitude, in the sense in which we commonly understand that word; though their numbers and magnitudes may be so great as to be styled infinite, as the word is sometimes used.
You assert in consequence of your ideas of infinite sin, that every offence against God demerits infinite punishment. If the case be so, does it not tend entirely to take away the distinction which God hath made between sins of infirmity and sins of malice, sins of ignorance and sins of wilfulness, lesser and greater sins? All sins are offences against God, and if every offence against God is of infinite magnitude, how can any be greater? and thus the distinctions are entirely destroyed, and, all sins will be esteemed equal, contrary to the whole tenor of the Scriptures.
If every offence against God demerits infinite punishment, then it will follow, that God cannot render to any according to their ways, nor punish them as their iniquities deserve, unless they are doomed to endless misery; what then will become of all those threatenings where God threatens to punish people for all their iniquities, and yet to shew favor to them afterwards? This is impossible upon your plan, for none can ever receive all the punishment due to their sins, during numberless ages. Yet if the word of God be true he can deal with transgressors as they have done, and yet be gracious to them afterwards. "For thus saith Adonai JEHOVAH, I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant. Nevertheless, I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith Adonai JEHOVAH." Ezek. xvi. 59,60, 63.
Here is an instance to the purpose of those whose sins were of the deepest die, and to whom God threatens to deal as they had done, and to punish them for all their numerous and aggravated transgressions, and yet to remember mercy for them afterwards, and to be pacified towards them for all that they had done. All which things would be absolutely impossible, according to your ideas. In many other parts of Scripture God promises to render to transgressors according to their works and ways, and yet to be afterwards gracious unto them. And in one place, at least, where God is declaring the great he will manifest unto the children of Israel in returning them to their own land, and causing them to dwell safely therein he says, "And first, I will recompense their iniquity, and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things." Jer. xvi. 18. What do you think of this? If every offence is of infinite magnitude, and deserves infinite punishment, which can never be fully executed, then how can God punish a people for all their iniquities, and do to the greatest sinners as they have done, yea, and recompense their iniquity, and their sin double first, and then be gracious unto them, and love them, and be pacified towards them afterwards? And the prophet Isaiah says, "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people saith your God. Speak ye comfortably unto Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the LORD'S hand DOUBLE FOR ALL HER SINS." Isai. xl. 1, 2. Here a fact is said to be accomplished, which upon your scheme can never be done to all.eternity; for if every offence against God is of infinite magnitude, and deserves infinite punishment, none can ever have received single for one of their sins, far less double for all.
And therefore nothing can possibly be more evidently contrary to Scripture than your trite and common argument, that as every sin, is of infinite magnitude, so it justly demerits infinite punishment, which as no mere creature can bear, must necessarily subject all who are recompensed according to their own doings to endless misery.
Besides, if I was to grant you, contrary to Scripture, reason, and common sense, that every offence is of infinite magnitude, and naturally deserves infinite punishment, how would you prove from that, the certainty of endless misery? Do you make nothing of the reconciliation which our Lord Jesus Christ has made for all sinners and for all sins?
Let me ask you seriously, did not Christ make a full and complete offering and propitiation for the sins of the whole world? Is it not certain that his merits were far greater than the demerits of all mankind? Is he not the Iamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world? If Christ died for all men, without exception, as you grant, and removed all their iniquities, and bore them away, and reconciled all to God by his death while they were enemies; much more as he has paid so great a price for their ransom, he will recover them out of their lost estate, & save them by his life. "Where sin abounded, grace did (or shall) much more abound. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord." Rom. v. 20, 21.
I conclude, that let sin be ever so great, the grace of God is greater; and if you will have it that sin is of infinite magnitude, I hope you will not deny the propitiation of Jesus Christ, which he made for all sins, the same character. Therefore if you magnify sin, and insist upon the greatness of its demerit, I will endeavor to magnify the all powerful Redeemer, above it and speak of his power to redeem all the human race for whom he shed his blood. And then you will gain nothing in favor of the doctrine of endless damnation, by all your arguments founded upon the infinity of sin. Christ being far more infinite to save, than sin can be to destroy; and as he has undertaken to redeem and bring back those who were lost, there is no danger of his failing to perform it.
Friend. I must confess that what you have said on this head entirely convinces me, that we cannot found the eternity of punishment, upon infinity of sin; and you have given mo more satisfaction upon many points in these conversations than I ever expected to receive. I am indeed at length almost persuaded to receive your sentiments, though I once thought that it was impossible to answer all my objections yet you have gone far towards it. Say I cannot at present recollect any thing material, but what you have answered. I would not be too hasty in adopting this system, but after your example consider it well. But there is certainly something more grand, beautiful, and harmonious in this view, than can be found in any other scheme; for both the other systems end in darkness and black night, one in endless damnation, and the other in gloomy annihilation. But on your plan light rises out of obscurity, and a glorious day succeeds the darkest scenes. This view of things sets the Book of divine Revelation in the most pleasing light, and appears, for aught any thing that I can see, consistent with the Divine perfections. But why, since you believe the universal Restoration, do you not mention it more freely and fully, in your public discourses?
Minister. On the other hand, some ask me, Why do you ever mention it at all in your sermons; since it is not essential to salvation to believe it? To them I give these answers.
1. St. Paul declared to Timothy, that this Universal Gospel of God's being the Saviour, or Restorer of all men, but especially of those that believe, was a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation; and that they labored and suffered reproach, because they trusted in God, as the universal Saviour. But he was so far from being ashamed of this belief, that he said to Timothy, "These things command and teach," 1 Tim. iv. 9, 10, 11. And so am I determined to do, at proper opportunities: notwithstanding the reproach and contempt awaiting me for so doing.
2. Though it is frequently said to be a matter of little or no consequence, if true; yet if it bo any part of the record God hath given of his Son, (as I think I have proved) we are in danger of. male ing him a liar, if we believe it not: See 1 John, ver. 9, 10, 11.
3. Though you may be Christians, and not believe it; yet I cannot; though once I could also. But now the evidences of its truth appear so plain to my mind, that it would he criminal in me not to believe it; and since I do believe it, would it not be highly dishonest in me to deny it? I have never done so yet, when asked; and God forbid, that I should be ashamed to publish, what he has commanded to be made known.
4. I have commonly acted merely on the defensive, and I never should, that I know of, have preached it in public, or but rarely, far less have written upon the subject, had it not been represented as a dangerous and destructive heresy; and people been cautioned against hearing me, on that account.
5. I have been frequently desired to preach upon the subject, expressly; and could not well refuse, without betraying a cowardly disposition.
6. I ask, Who is the best man; he who preaches the truth contraryto his judgement, for interest, or to gain applause; or he that fairly speaks as he thinks, without disguise; although he knows that it will displease his best friends on earth; even upon the supposition that he errs in many points? If there be an heretic, in the world, it is the man who for the love of money or applause, or through the fear of man, preaches that to others which he himself doth not believe. "He that is such, is subverted, and sinneth; being condemned of himself." Tit. iii. 11.
7. If we are to hold forth nothing to mankind, but what all are agreed in, we must discourse upon very few subjects; for I do not recollect so much as one, but what people either disagree about the thing itself, or the manner of explaining and holding it; no! not even the being and perfections of God; nor any point of doctrinal, experimental, or even practical religion.
8. We are to endeavor to teach mankind what they know not, as well as to confirm them in what they are already taught; should keep back nothing that may be profitable to them; should give meat to strong men, as well as milk to babes, and should not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. We ought to justify the ways of God to men, to shew the necessity and harmony of Divine Revelation, and lake pains to convert infidels; all which things are more promoted by this view than any other.
As to your question, why I do not dwell more upon it? I answer:
1. There are a thousand other subjects in the Bible, besides this; and all deserve consideration, according to their weight and importance.
2. I have an utter aversion to going always in the same round of matter or manner; and, therefore I frequently vary in both.
3. There are many other subjects of more present importance than the belief of this; such as repentance, faith, hope, love, obedience, &c. and therefore ought to be more frequently insisted on, in proportion to their present use.
4. There are many scenes of providence and grace to take place in the universe, before the general Restoration; such as the Millennium, the calling of the Jews, the universal spread of the gospel through the earth, &c. These things are much nearer, and therefore the Scripture speaks more of them; and what God speaks most of, in his word, we should discourse of most to the people.
5. This doctrine, though it may have its use in converting men; and certainly enables those who believe it, to set forth the terrors of the Lord, and his mercies, in a more striking manner than otherwise they could; yet it is chiefly useful in comforting the people of God, and, in part relieving them from that bitter anguish which their tender minds feel, from the consideration of the vast numbers that perish; and, therefore, may not be so proper for a popular audience as many other subjects.
The plan of this grand Restoration is so vast, includes so many different and seemingly contradictory dispensations, that it cannot be fairly stated, and fully defended, in one sermon, and especially the objections answered; and many persons are not capable of taking in and digesting at once, so many subjects as are necessary to the understanding of this matter, and have not patience to attend to a long series of demonstrations, arguments, and proofs; and, therefore, this doctrine should not be introduced by any man, in any place, unless he has opportunity, to give it a fair investigation; and, therefore, I never mention it at all, at my first preaching in any place; nor unless I have sufficient opportunities to discuss it.
Christ says to his disciples--"I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now," St. John,xvi. 12. And St. Paul says--"And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal; even as unto babes in Christ: I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye are not able to bear it; neither yet now are ye able." I Cor. iii. 1,2. "Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age; even those who by reason of use, have their senses exercised, to discern both good and evil." Heb. v. 14. Therefore, as the Saviour and his apostles adapted their subjects and discourses to the circumstances of their hearers, and treated them in a gentle manner; so should we. Prudence, patience, and care, should always be used in discoursing on a doctrine so deep and awful as this; and, especially, as it hath been so little known of late ages.
8. I would wish to establish well the first principles of Christianity, before I meddle with any thing else; and as to the doctrine of the Restoration, I would rather that it should seem to be naturally inferred from truths already, known, than delivered as an independent system: I, therefore, seldom or ever make it a leading point in my discourses; but sometimes lead to it, as a natural consequence of what has been said. After all, I would choose that men should discover it themselves, by carefully reading the Scriptures, without prejudice,, believing them to be strictly true; by living in love towards God and man; by walking in humility, often reflecting on their former estate; and constantly viewing the sufficiency of Christ, and the boundless love of their great Creator; rather than to learn it of any man, far less still, of such an unworthy worm as I am.
9. As far as I know my own heart, truth, in love is my constant aim. I am unconnected with any party; and am not so prejudiced in favor of any thing that I hold, but that I would willingly be convinced in any thing, by proper evidence; and when so convinced, I am ready to retract publicly. As, therefore, I do not feel myself personally interested to support the system, right or wrong; I have, therefore, dwelt much less upon it, than most preachers do upon their particular sentiments.
10. When I first embraced these views I was obliged to give some account of my reasons; and I chose rather to do it by writing than preaching: Accordingly, I published my sentiments, and answers to many objections; which publications being in the hands of those to whom I preached, made it less necessary for me to discourse upon those matters in public, or even in private, as I could refer to what I had written; and with the same view, I am inclined to publish these familiar discourses, which we have had together; after which it will be less necessary than ever for me to preach the Restoration publicly; yet, I will not wholly avoid it at convenient times, and in proper circumstances.
11. Lastly, as I know so much of the nature of man, as to be sensible that he turns, with disgust and loathing, from what is perpetually crammed down his throat; but relishes that which he falls upon, as it were accidentally, and comes into by little and little; I have always made it a rule never to introduce it, in public or private, unless where it was earnestly desired, nor ever to continue it long together; and, above all, never to question people upon the subject, after discoursing upon it; asking them, saying, Do you believe it? &c. Nor would I ever wish to press them with the arguments at once, and oblige them immediately to yield; as this kind of conduct, so far from answering any good purposes, commonly sets them against what is thus intruded upon them. It is the best way to give time and leisure to persons, whom you would wish to convince; and let them exercise their own faculties.
Friend. I must confess that what you have advanced is highly satisfactory to me, and I trust will be so to many others who may read these conversations, which I hope to have the pleasure of seeing in print before long; and in the mean time, I wish for a blessing to attend your labors, and that you may be an instrument of much good to mankind in your day and generation, and that you may obtain a crown of life from the Lord the righteous judge, in the day of his appearing.
Minister. I thank you most kindly for your benevolent wishes, I heartily wish the same blessing may come to yourself. And if I have been an instrument of giving you any satisfaction, let all the glory be to God, but let me have an interest in your prayers.